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Berlioz: Harold In Italy; Paganini: Sonata Per La Grand Viola / Carpenter, Ashkenazy

Berlioz / Paganini / Carpenter
Release Date: 08/30/2011 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1188   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hector BerliozNiccolò Paganini
Performer:  David Aaron Carpenter
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 4 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is one of those programs that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. David Aaron Carpenter plays a sensational viola, and he’s very capably accompanied by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Helsinki Philharmonic. This would be a very recommendable version of Harold in Italy on its own, even in a quite crowded field. The two central movements have plenty of character and color, and the concluding Orgy of Brigands lacks nothing in fire or excitement. However, there are two specific factors that make this release more than ordinarily interesting. First, Carpenter has restored Berlioz’s original viola part to the first statement of Harold’s main theme. This was presumably a concession to Paganini, who
Read more of course wanted a virtuoso piece. It’s no surprise that Paganini wasn’t impressed by this scant minute of barely audible arpeggiation, and that Berlioz replaced it with the more songful, canonic version that we all know and love, but it’s good to hear for a change. Second, and more importantly, Carpenter and Ashkenazy include the work the Paganini wrote for himself instead, and which presumably better represents what he really had in mind. The Sonata per la Gran Viola e Orchestra lasts about thirteen minutes. It consists of an introduction followed by a recitative, a cantabile, and a concluding theme and variations. It is tuneful, splashy, and effectively virtuosic. What stands out particularly, though, is not its obvious bel canto qualities, but the fact that Paganini calls the work a “sonata” in the first place. Many have wondered how he could have asked Berlioz to write a piece for viola at all, given the huge disparity between what Paganini expected and what Berlioz actually produced. We’ll never know exactly what discussions passed between the two men, save that it seems on his own evidence that Paganini was not looking for a typical concerto, but for “something else.” Well, that’s certainly what he got! Harold, of course, offers no opportunity for the soloist to display his virtuoso chops. He’s basically just along for the ride. So it’s good to be able to report that Carpenter isn’t fazed at all by Paganini’s typically ridiculous demands. The work constitutes a fabulous encore to Harold, while the disc-opening Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict makes this release a perfect program for continuous listening. The whole production is excellently engineered, especially when it comes to the tricky issue of balancing the soloist against the larger ensemble. It’s just great when a program is as smartly assembled as it is musically brilliant. -- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Béatrice et Bénédict: Overture by Hector Berlioz
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860-1862; France 
Harold en Italie, Op. 16 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  David Aaron Carpenter (Viola)
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834; France 
Sonata for Viola and Orchestra by Niccolò Paganini
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1834 

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